We are in extraordinary times. While Social Distancing is gaining momentum, Social Media is holding us together. Businesses big and small, are being forced to reconstruct their way of working.
Undoubtedly, it is an extremely challenging time, with uncertainty the only sure thing. Businesses are seeing their supply chain affected and the ripple effect is being felt all the way down to individual contributors and freelancers.
The truth is, if the business you work for takes a hit, then your work takes a hit. When times are rough, indulgent, non-critical spending is the first to be put on hold. So whether you’re an online business or an on-ground business, if your service or product CAN be lived without, it WILL be. But for most freelancers, solopreneurs and small businesses’, maintaining cash flow is prime. There are daily expenses, rental, cost of living and numerous other factors that simply cannot be put on hold.
Creatively adapting to our circumstances is our human strength. Thanks to online connectivity, we might be socially isolated, but our power to connect and convey our message stays strong.
Here are 16 common-sense ways to help your small business while social distancing impacts us all
While not every business has the means or the model to make an online switch, here are some ideas and to-dos for various categories of solopreneurs and businesses, that might keep the wheels turning towards a positive outcome.
1.Reach out and Build your Outreach
Is there work you can do online for existing clients? Online meetings, webinars, virtual workshops. Any strategic work that you had planned for later?
Amp up your online networking – clients, prospects, vendors, supporters. Use social media and PR, where it helps your businesses. If you’ve always considered guest posting or want to pitch to companies, use this time to refine and act.
2.Be aware and prepared
Honeybook has an extremely comprehensive list of resources for legal, finance and communication planning and preparation, covering everything from client communication to legal protections and even mental health.
The Small Business Administration has a list of problems many small businesses may encounter during the Corona Virus outbreak.
For bigger businesses with employees, this guide is designed to give you specific, tactical actions you can take right now to mitigate the spread of the virus, provide answers to your team’s frequently asked questions, and keep your business running as usual.
3. Reevaluate Expenses
Your customers may revise their spending habits so where can you trim your expenses, without fundamentally affecting your business? Can you cut down on subscriptions or use the free version of tools rather than the paid one? Loom, the free screen and Video recording software, for example, has slashed its prices and upgraded its free offerings in this time of crisis.
4. Think like your customer
Your customers, in all likelihood, are neck-deep themselves in figuring out how to keep their business afloat and manage to work from home. They would probably appreciate your honest appraisal of your business situation and welcome your ideas on how to move forward in the best way possible. Proactively offer a range of solutions to fulfill your contract.
Alternately, share content that offers solutions and value to common concerns and build goodwill.
Here are some helpful guidelines along with examples for organizations crafting communications for both internal and external audiences.
5. Check off the big (and pending) ones
What’s the big task sitting on your back burner, weighing you down? Have you been putting off starting a blog, creating your online portfolio, launching a website etc? These are business essentials and this time is probably opportune to grab the bull by its horns.
From Digital Marketing to Blogging, WordPress, Analytics, Content, eCommerce & more, find the best FREE online courses you can do to help your business6. Systems & cleaning
Everyday business frenzy seldom grants the time to apply systems in place. From updating a CRM to cleaning out your overfull inbox or fixing content on your website for keywords or broken URLs, use this time to do those long-deferred tasks. Putting your systems in place can yield a massive return on investment in the long run.
7. Contemplate online passive income
Can your product, service or expertise be offered as an online lesson? Can your work be packaged and delivered remotely?
Be future-ready. Can you acquire new skills to diversify your income?
Take stock of your current skills and niche further or branch out. Either way, it is a feather in your cap. In this Podcast interview on ways to be productive in quarantine, Seth Godin shares some great advice on how to spend your time in isolation wisely.
Google for Education has quick, free courses while Analytics Academy helps you learn about Google’s measurement tools. Hubspot Academy has several courses and certifications for online business and they are all free. Skillcrush offers a free coding camp or if you are curious about the basics of AI, then this free course is great. Plus, here’s a list of 450 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free.
Find Pro resources for blogging, social media, SEO, Productivity & more!
(Tons are free!)
9. Barter or Collaborate
There is power in unity (and numbers). A small business owner next to you is feeling the same pinch. Can you create a coalition of complementary businesses that recommend and support each other in creative ways? Not only does it enlarge the pool of ideas for making it through anxious times, but it also generates immense Career Karma.
Additionally, If you are able to, consider hiring a freelancer in these times.
10. Use tech for Events
If a prominent part of your business was workshops, speaking events or in-person meetings, you are indeed struggling. So while this is a *really* difficult time, you can also look at this as an opportunity to build your skills on running virtual events. This is a comprehensive list of Tips, Tools, and Examples for Event Organizers During the Coronavirus Outbreak.
11. Find Community
From Facebook groups to online platforms there are a whole host of communities you can tap into for like-minded businesses. Get advice on figuring out how to sustain your online business or even supporting the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed.
Find your Tribe on Maroon Oak!
12. Get help
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Here’s a step by step guide to the Paycheck Protection Program. The initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and self-employed individuals.
Reach out to your personal and professional contacts and ask for help, ideas or leads. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
13. Communicate Appreciation
Use this lull in business to creatively express appreciation for your customers, referral partners, mentors, employees and suppliers- even a simple, heartfelt note goes a long way. Goodwill is a future asset.
14. Create in Bulk
As solopreneurs and small business owners, we are constantly putting out daily fires, leaving little time for long term planning and scheduling. Often when we do get a window of time, we are stuck for ideas. Use this slowdown to create & schedule in bulk – from blog content to social media posts, Facebook group prompts, etc.
15. Embrace Constraints
Constraints force focus and give fire to creativity. It is possible to maintain momentum with some creative thinking, so make serious time for ideation.
If you offer a package of services, can you slice off some while keeping the essentials and offer a revised, discounted package? For seasonal businesses, can you offer an incentive on a future package, if purchased now? For physical locations, can you offer delivery services or a discount on bulk purchases to move inventory? Can you Livestream your lessons or sell gift cards for your services?
16. Batch Productivity & Family Time
Social distancing has put all of us together – kids and adults, at home, with nowhere to go. When you work from home and the entire family is home, the line between work and caretaking becomes fuzzy. How does a working parent maintain productivity to tackle business challenges and setbacks?
Batch working the Pomodoro way, time tracking, working early or late hours, creating a schedule for the kids, giving them chores, with intentional tweaks in your approach, however small, will lead to eventual payoffs in productivity.
Fortunately, a lot of people are putting out resources for parents to keep kids busy at home. Here’s a giant list of ideas for being home with kids, plus a list of education companies offering Free Subscriptions. Khan Academy has always been free and has coding lessons too. If you want to avoid too much screen time, explore the amazing world of kids podcasts.
At the end of the day, for our mental clarity and peace of mind, it’s up to us to decide what needs our focus and what can wait.
As with any other time in life, people are rising to the occasion and creating opportunities.
The way to get through this and overcome business setbacks is TOGETHER. Your proactivity, productivity & composure is important. Remember to breathe and wash your hands!
Please share in comments below your ideas, concerns or if you know of resources that we have missed.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.